Wakehurst boss Paul Muir admits he would happily swap Saturday’s victory in the Irish Cup for more points in his side’s battle against relegation.
The Ballymena men enjoyed a chink of light in a difficult first half of the season as they reached the fifth round of the Irish Cup by beating fellow NIFL Championship Two side Glebe Rangers on penalties after the sides had been deadlocked at a goal apiece at Mill Meadow.
That sends Wakehurst into Tuesday’s draw where they could face neighbours Ballymena United or one of the other Danske Bank Premiership heavyweights, Muir insists: “The league is our priority and critical to club’s survival.”
Saturday’s game saw Muir hand a first start to Bradley Cairns - a product of the Northend United set-up - at the tender age of 16.
The young striker has been playing regularly for the club’s under-17s and Wakehurst Strollers all season after making his Strollers debut at age 15 in pre-season, coming off the bench to score in a 3-1 win over Braid United.
He has scored seven goals for Jason Connolly’s side in the Ballymena & Provincial League since then.
Cairns didn’t look out of place in a front two with John Alexander - another player promoted following a good goalscoring run in the reserves and who proved a constant thorn in Glebe’s defence.
And it was young Cairns who produced the moment of the first half with a moment of individual brilliance, chesting the ball down before volleying onto the cross bar from 30 yards.
However, it was Glebe who opened the scoring as Wakehurst fell victim to a sucker punch goal on the stroke of half time when a corner sneaked in at near post.
In the second half, ‘Hurst camped in the Glebe half without really testing visiting goalkeeper David Reid but finally the dominance paid off when a corner from Lee McCaughern was knocked in to his own net by a Glebe player to send the game in to extra time.
The momentum was with Wakehurst throughout the additional 30 minutes period and despite wave after wave of attack, the match went to dreaded penalty shoot out.
It was goalkeeper Macauley Cairns who proved the hero for Wakehurst as he saved two spot kicks from Mo McDowell and Jackie Morrison.
John Alexander, Lee McCaughern and Kurtis McCartney all converted from the spot to send Wakehurst through to a potentially money-spinning tie against a senior club
Wakehurst: M. Cairns, C. Ross, N. Swann, A. Millar, K. McCartney, G. Gilmore, L. McClelland, A. Laughlin (C), C. Price, B. Cairns, J. Alexander. Subs: R. Young (on for Gilmore), L. McCaughern (on for B. Cairns), J. Amstrong (on for Price), M. Maybin, J. Walker.
Wakehurst are in cup action again this Saturday when they travel to Orangefield OB in the Intermediate Cup.